St Johnstone captain Dave Mackay believes the Perth club’s summer European campaign was beginning to take its toll, and the two-week international break has come at just the right time.
The Perth full-back has seen signs of weariness in some of the Saints players on the back of their mid-July Europa League start to the season.
It didn’t stop them thrashing Inverness Caledonian Thistle 4-0 at the weekend, but it will make a few days rest and recuperation welcome nonetheless.
Mackay explained: “It’s felt like quite a long season because we’ve started so early. There are a few tired legs and niggles.
“It’s good to have some days off and to be able to rest up and then look forward to our next game.”
The fact that Saints are back in the top six of the Premiership as they put their feet up is a bonus.
Mackay, one of the weekend goalscorers, reflected: “It was important we got that win. The players and the manager spoke before the game that this was one we needed to win.
“We knew we would need a very good performance to beat a team like Inverness, who were in great form, and that’s what we gave.
“The other results have gone for us as well. We’ve closed the gap on a few teams. If we had lost to Inverness you were talking about a 13-point gap to them, which is a long way back. That win closes everything up and will make for an exciting league.
“It’s right up there with Rosenborg away. That was our best performance before Saturday.
“Rosenborg was all about possession and keeping the ball, Inverness was about how we pressed and then used the ball when we got it. We did that so well, which is really pleasing.
“That’s the standard we should be meeting every week. We’ve done it against Ross County and the two away games in Europe. We know we’re capable of performances like that.”
“It’s just a case of doing it on a more regular basis. Hopefully that’s the start of it. We were due a game like that because we’d been pretty poor in the last three or four.
“We’ve maybe had half an hour here and there, but we couldn’t put 90 together. That’s the best we’ve played for a while. Hopefully it’s the start of a wee run.”
Stevie May won’t be getting a rest as he is on Scotland under-21 duty. Mackay is impressed with the youngster’s progress, and insisted there is a lot more to come.
“Stevie’s a goalscorer but he laid on a couple on Saturday as well,” he said.
“He’ll be the first to admit that he’s not the finished article and there is more to add to his game. His link-up play and hold-up play can get better and it will get better.
“He’s a young boy and once that starts to improve even more we’ll have a real player on our hands. He couldn’t ask for a better mentor than Steven (MacLean).
“His link-up play is outstanding. “They complement each other well and that can only be good for the team in the long run.
“It is a good partnership and I’m sure it will only get better.”
To have two strikers scoring regularly would be something new for Saints according to Mackay.
He noted: “In the past we’ve maybe had one goalscorer who was finding the net. It used to be a case of Fran Sandaza or no one a lot of the time when he was here.
“It’s important other people score goals, and I’m sure that will be the case this year. We’ve got goals in midfield. We’ve got players capable of scoring apart from Midge (Chris Millar) obviously but the other ones will chip in.
“He’s getting closer but I still can’t see it happening!”
The Saints team headed from McDiarmid to Perth Concert Hall for a club hall of fame dinner.
“The last thing we wanted was to go to there on the back of a defeat, because it was a big night for the club. Our win was the perfect start to a good night,” Mackay said.